I just read the BEST book today! It’s a middle grade novel called Rules by Cynthia Lord (I don’t know her…and no one’s paying me to say this, so you know I’m telling the truth!). It’s about a young girl’s relationships with her autistic brother and with a paraplegic boy. While I don’t have an autistic child myself, I worked with autistic children in college (my background is child psychology). And one of my closest friends has a child with Asperger’s Syndrome (in fact, there are three children on my street who have been diagnosed somewhere on the autism/Asperger’s spectrum). So I know something about this…enough to know that most people really don’t understand it (you should have seen the character sketch I received from this packager that wants to do a series of books featuring an autistic character…long story, but I’m not going to be doing those books, and I cringe at the thought that somebody else is going to do them and perpetuate all those stereotypes).
Seriously…if you want to know what it’s like to live with an autistic child, you’ve got to read this book (plus it’s just an all-around enjoyable read). Apparently, the author has an autistic child, so that helps…but not everyone who lives with an autistic child can write like this. Lord has a gift for choosing just the right detail and dropping it at just the right time. And the scenes where Catherine (the main character) talks with Jason (who communicates by pointing to words in his “communication book”) are especially touching. This is also a good book to study if you’re a writer trying to figure out how to create characters that are so real they practically walk off the page. Lord makes it look easy.
I’m definitely going to be including this book in my July Book Bag column!